Ears Wide Open: Rustbelt


Anybody who heard Juiceboxxx’s 2020 album, “It’s Easy to Feel Like a Nobody When You’re Living in the City,” could have surmised that John Chiaverina was turning an artistic corner. After a decade of audacious rap-rock and electro-punk that branded him as either 1) an underground DIY legend, or 2) “the world’s worst rapper,” Chiaverina’s swan song as Juiceboxxx was an underdog indie-rock record.

Fast forward two years: Goodbye, Juiceboxxx. Hello, Rustbelt.

“It’s hard to describe the first 20 years of my musical life,” Chiaverina said last month when he introduced the next project. “I toured with everyone from noise bands to Public Enemy. I embarrassed myself on live TV and went viral. Someone even wrote an entire book about me. Through all the chaos, I kept making music. It wasn’t a choice. I had to do it. That project was called Juiceboxxx. It’s over now. I’m not exactly sure what comes next, but this new name and new song is an attempt to try to figure that out. We are all just trying to figure it out.”

“Fade the Mix” was the appropriately titled first single from Rustbelt’s self-titled EP, out Oct. 14 via Dangerbird Records. File it with your favorite underdog indie-pop from irrepressible artists who wear everything on their sleeves.

On the second single, “Young and Punk,” the Milwaukee-bred artist spins a yarn about an old punk who spends years living on money from a successful lawsuit against the drugstore CVS. “This song is about trying to grow up despite being shackled to the thing that gave your life meaning in the first place,” Chiaverina says. “It’s not about any one person or place. It’s about something larger. Something I will be wrestling with my whole life. It’s about rock ’n’ roll.”

||| Stream: “Young and Punk”

||| Also: Watch the video for “Fade the Mix”